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Gay? Basher? Both?

Can a gay person be anti-gay? Can a gay person be a gay basher? Can a gay person commit an anti-gay hate crime? That’s similar to the often-asked question “Can a Black person be racist?”; similar, but quite different. That question could be asking can a Black person be racist against whites, or it could be asking if a Black person san be racist against other Blacks. But a gay person whose anti-gay is whole other thing.

The initial answer to the first question is “yes.” We’ve seen far too many examples of people who are probably, at the very least, same-sex oriented in their private lives but either anti-gay or quietly complicit in their public lives and careers. Larry “Toe-tappin’ in the Men’s Room” Craig is a prime example, if you believe where there’s smoke there’s fire, given his fine voting record with organizations like the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America. Mark “Into SMS” Foley, who had so absorbed the anti-gay rhetoric of his party that he could no longer see himself — and, by extension, the rest of us — as deserving equality, is another. And let’s not forget Ted “Praise the Lord and Pass the Meth” Haggard, and whatever it was he needed Mike Jones to massage.

But these guys are nothing new. In fact they’re nothing more than pale shadows of Roy “Sure, I take it up the ass, but I ain’t no faggot” Cohn. Still, the all came rushing back at me when I caught up the news this week (having a newborn can cramp a blogger’s style), and realized I had to update the Michael Sandy entry on the LGBT Hate Crimes Project, when I read that one of Sandy’s attackers now claim to b gay.

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Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.comA surprise in Di Chiara’s opening was the revelation that Fortunato is gay.

“This man has been tortured by a secret that he has carried for a long time,” Di Chiara told the jury. “His secret is coming out in this courtroom and his family is listening to it.”

Di Chiara said Fortunato had been secretly meeting with other men for sex for several years. The value of that news in the Sandy trial is unclear.

To show that Fortunato has committed crimes similar to the alleged Sandy robbery, the prosecutor will introduce evidence that Fortunato had invited gay men to a local motel where he had stolen their belongings when they went to the toilet. The revelation may be an effort to explain that evidence, thereby mitigating its impact.

The jury may reject the notion that a gay man can commit a hate crime against another gay man, but even without that charge Fortunato could be still convicted of felony murder, though not as a hate crime, which carries a maximum sentence of 25-to-life.

As an alternative explanation for the events of October 8, Di Chiara said that his client had thought that Timmins might be gay and wanted the opportunity to come out to him. Fortunato thought that if he, Timmins, and Sandy smoked marijuana together he would feel comfortable telling him.

A problem for the defense is that Fortunato, the alleged ringleader in this crime, will have to take the stand to put his being gay into evidence. If he does that, he will be subject to cross-examination by Nicolazzi, a skilled and experienced prosecutor.

A Brooklyn paper reprinted part of a chat between Sandy and Fortunato.

“well all I wanna do is chill with just you,” Sandy writes, “and mess around.”

“all right sounds good,” Fortunato, replies, “on the beach.”

“don’t have loot is there a spot we can park and mess around,” Sandy asks.

“the parking lot of gay beach,” Fortunato replies.

“is it really gay beach,” Sandy asks, unfamiliar with the known, gay-cruising spot.

“yeah.”

“so only gays go there,” Sandy asks again.

“basically,” Fortunato replies, later writing, “I guess if u drive into the lot by plum beach ill wait for u on a bench there and just hop in.”

In researching the Sandy murder, I was struck at one point with the realization — based on what the articles I was reading — that Sandy actually did not know the location of the cruising area where Fortunato wanted to meet him. In fact, after the attack, police found directions to the location in Sandy’s car, that he’d likely printed just before leaving.

Fortunato, apparently, was more than familiar with its location and the primary activity that took place there. Perhaps he’d been there before, perhaps not so much looking for robbery victims as cruising for sex. And perhaps he did lure gay men to hotels to rob them, and did rob them, but after having sex with them. And perhaps he merely neglected to tell his his friends the last part. And maybe he decided that was for the best as he watched his friends — his friends savagely beat Michael Sandy and drive him to his death. If his friends would do that to Sandy, a gay man, what might they do to him? He might ask himself that, but he probably didn’t ask himslf why he chose them over the men he robbed and the one he lured to his death, and who lay dying even as Fortunato joked with his friends over news accounts of the attack.

Could he laugh even then? Could he be gay or — more specifically, a latent homosexual who has sex with men — and still gay bash? Sure. If Larry Craig could legislate against gays, in between trips to the men’s room, and if Mark Foley could take his hands of his Blackberry long enough to do the same, and if Ted Haggard could preach against and advocate against gays in between massage appointments, and Roy Cohn crusade against homosexuals in between dates with P-Town hustlers, then Anthony Fortunato could be a self-loathing, latent homosexual, and a not-so-latent gay basher.

In truth Fortunato’s story sounds to much like so many of the stories I’ve researched and written up for the LGBT Hate Crimes Project, concerning gay men who were murdered by men who either lured them — like Richie Phillips or went home with them willingly — like Jason Gage or Glenn Kopitske — and who became overcome with “uncontrollable rage” after allegedly unwelcome advances are made.

In each case, there’s an argument to be made that that not all advances were unwanted. Kopitke’s killer claims to have murdered him after a consensual encounter and, like Fortunato, his lawyer “outed” him in court as an attempt to explain his actions. In each case, there’s an argument to be made that the attacks originated from internalized rage and shame projected onto external victims.

In the murders of Jason Gage and Glenn Kopitske, the facts strongly suggest that whatever happened behind closed doors — where only the killer and the victim know what happened—was consensual. The uncontrollable rage that resulted in their murders was triggered by shame and anger on the part of their killers, over their own desires, or that others might find out, and their manhood would be threatened as a result. In some of the cases involving transgender victims, I find myself wondering how much the killers knew and to what degree the murders were driven by shame, guilt, anger, and the threatened manhood of the killers.

Fortunato may not have been on the parkway when Michael Sandy was being beaten, but he made sure that Sandy was there for whatever took place. And he may be belatedly gay now, whereas before he was conveniently not gay while having sex with men, perhaps robbing them, and luring at least one to his death. For that he deserves neither pity nor sympathy. Many of us know all to well what’s it’s like to struggle with self-loathing and self-acceptance when it comes to our sexuality, but struggling with either isn’t an excuse for taking someone else down with you.

Belatedly gay, or not, Fortunato deserves to face justice for his part in Michael Sandy’s death, just as much as Sandy deserves some kind of justice, albeit posthumously. Thanks, in part, to Fortunato.

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